CEO of Aspen Skiing Co. Offers Look at Next Season | Expect ‘Annoying’ Procedural Changes

SnowBrains | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Aspen Mountain
Aspen Mountain in the foreground, Aspen Highlands in the background. Photo Credit: Expedia

The CEO of Aspen Skiing Co., Mike Kaplan, yesterday penned an open letter to the community discussing the company’s plans and to set expectations for the upcoming ski season.

While not getting into specific procedural changes, he mentions that riding lifts and gondolas will be restricted, social distancing and face-covering measures will be implemented in public spaces, wherever possible ordering and payment of goods and services will take place online, and the resort will be expanding outdoor seating and adding coverage and heat where possible. Admitting they don’t have all the answers yet, he did admit that some of the procedures will be ‘annoying’.

He also put a dampener on many of the exuberant social activities that Aspen, CO is famous for, for example hosting the X-Games, saying they will be greatly subdued. However, they are working hard on opening on time and staying open all winter.

This winter will not be the season for tracking laps and vertical. Instead, take advantage of the situation and reconnect with nature, be more mindful of being in the mountains, the cold on your face, the beauty of pure, virgin snow, spending quality time with friends and family. It’s time to slow down a little…

The letter in full is below:

Valued guest,

We’re a month into summer here in Aspen Snowmass, and it’s been unlike any the Roaring Fork Valley has ever experienced. The pandemic has been incredibly difficult, but it’s also created valuable new perspectives. Our country is struggling through economic and social disruption not seen in generations. Understandably, many people want a return to “normal”—but perhaps we can do better than that.

On our journey there, we all try to make the best of the current situation. One way is by getting back to the core of what’s important in our lives. For me, being in the mountains, going up and downhill, soaking in nature, getting closer to family, and doing whatever I can to help my community have all taken on heightened importance. As I bike or hike around familiar trails, I’m seeing new things, listening to perspective-shifting podcasts, and wondering what our future holds—what will come back and what will be forever changed. Compared to those almost existential questions, the one I’ll attempt to answer here seems pretty straightforward: What’s the plan for the 2020-2021 ski season?

The short answer: We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are doing everything possible to anticipate how to open on time and stay open all winter. Of course, we must do it safely on behalf of our employees, our community, our guests, and our partners, which I believe is possible with the right protocols in place. We’re learning valuable lessons during our summer operations, which are going quite smoothly to everyone’s enjoyment. Yes, there will be new procedures this winter, some of them annoying, and a handful of the exuberant social activities we are famous for will be greatly subdued. But there is an overarching opportunity in this new normal that I’m trying to embrace.

Like everything in our lives pre-COVID, skiing and snowboarding had become somewhat frantic. Many of us were caught up in the conquests—tracking our bowl laps and vertical—rather than fully appreciating the moments. I’m looking forward to refocusing on the core of what this sport is all about, what this place enables: a chance to connect deeply—with nature, with our physical selves and movements, and even with our sense of purpose and our roles in society. No doubt, next ski season will be more of an old school experience, but that could also translate to less noise, fewer distractions, and, hopefully, more meaning.

The guest surveys we’ve conducted show that most of you are accepting of the necessary operational changes. But to the handful who say we should operate as normal and ignore our public health professionals, I want to be clear: We will only go back to business as usual at the ski areas and in our restaurants and hotels when the science and health experts give us the unanimous “all clear.” Until then, we’ll be serious and vigilant about keeping one another safe. Just like in skiing, we each must take responsibility for our own safety and absolutely avoid endangering others. If we can all own our roles and live them, I know we will open on time and remain open as long as the snow allows. To give you a more specific sense of our plans, I’ll outline a few changes here in addition to the sanitization and containment procedures already in place.

Loading and riding lifts and gondolas will have guidelines that limit contact between unrelated individuals. Social-distancing measures and facial-covering requirements will be in place in all restaurants, ticket offices, ski school facilities, and other indoor or congested areas. We are looking at expanding outdoor seating, adding coverage and heat where possible. New technology will allow most transactions to take place online prior to or during each visit, with ticketing, waivers, menus, ordering, and payments all moving to digital formats as much as possible. This will allow guests to enjoy more time recreating by getting on the mountain quicker and will limit the need to wait in lines or spend time in congested areas.

We will update you as we learn more and as additional protocols develop and evolve. Between now and winter, we would love to see you in person. But if you can’t make it, please know that we’re thinking about you, hoping you and your loved ones are well, and we are looking forward to welcoming you back here again.

Mike Kaplan

Aspen CEO Mike Kaplan.

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